The latest trade figures show a big drop in EU purchases, a huge jump in buying from non-EU countries

Graham Charles Lear
4 min readJul 31, 2021

Official: EU’s sales to UK plunge by £28bn in 5yrs — Brits reacting to hostile EU?

Analysis of the latest trade figures released by the Office for National Statistics on Tuesday (27 Jul 2021) reveals extraordinary, official evidence that the British are switching their buying preferences emphatically away from the EU and towards the rest of the world.

This article is about what the UK buys from abroad, NOT what we sell. It includes both goods and services. Readers will be familiar with articles about British exports but this is about British IMPORTS. Specifically, it concerns the trend in what we are buying from the EU27 countries compared to what we are buying from other countries around the world.

I compared the last quarter’s results (Jan-Mar 2021) with the same quarter five years ago, just before the UK’s referendum on EU membership when the majority of the British people voted to leave. I also looked at the five-year trend.

The five-year trend in British buying habits is firmly anti-EU

  1. Q1 2021 compared to Q1 2016
  • British purchases from EU27: -9.3%
  • British purchases from non-EU: +16.3%

[Below I am comparing 2021 to the pre-Referendum 2016]

  • In monetary terms, the EU’s sales to the UK are down by £5.2bn, comparing the quarters
  • Comparing the last 12 months to the year of 2016, the EU’s lost sales amount to £27.8bn
  • This represents a drop of 11.3%, even more than the percentage drop for the last quarter alone.

2. EU’s share of UK’s total purchases from abroad

Now looked at UK purchases of international goods and services and where they came from.

  • Q1 2016: 55.7% came from EU27
  • Q1 2021: 49.5% came from EU27

For years there has been a growing backlash against the EU. Even many of those who voted Remain in 2016 have been shocked by the EU’s bullying and unreasonable behaviour towards the United Kingdom.

I have observed an increasing number of people on social media advocating that we should ‘buy British’ first, from Commonwealth countries second, and from the rest of the world third. The EU is now seen as the last choice for many people — and even some of those would rather do without, than benefit the EU.

Above I have shown clear evidence from the official source — the ONS — that the EU’s sales to the UK are falling, both in percentage and in real terms. And these are not small numbers. In the last 12 months alone the EU has lost sales totalling £27.8bn, compared to 2016.

What will Remainers say?

As ever, Remainers will try to deflect. They might start by talking about the Covid effect. This is nonsense of course because the whole world is suffering under this and overall I am looking at the percentage swing in favour of purchases from non-EU countries. The EU is significantly down in the first quarter following our full departure on 01 January, whereas the rest of the world has risen dramatically.

Remainers might then confuse exports and imports, and say that EU sales to the UK are down because of new Brexit controls. Again this is nonsense. It is the EU that has imposed absurd and restrictive controls at its borders which have impacted UK sales to the bloc. By contrast, the UK has adopted a ‘light touch on the EU27’s sales into the UK, almost waving them through our borders.

My analysis and report are about what Brexit Britain is buying from abroad and the figures do not look good for the EU.

Am I surprised?

No. Years of abusive behaviour by the EU towards the UK is bound to damage consumer opinion when it comes to making purchasing decisions. Why buy from a source of constant hostility, when there are excellent indigenous suppliers and alternatives from friendly countries around the world?

To my readers in the EU27, I would just say this. I have not observed any signs of hostility from the British people towards the citizens of EU27 countries. The ‘beef’, as we say, isn’t with you. The beef is with the appalling way the United Kingdom has been treated — in particular by the EU Commission and EU parliament. If you felt bullied and treated like a non-voting colony, how would you react when choosing between a UK product and one from the EU27?

[ Sources: UK’s Office for National Statistics trade release, 27 Jul 2021 ]

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Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.